Atlas Shrugged Chapter 3: The Top and the Bottom

Alas, this chapter is not a foray into D/s relationships. Instead, it’s another contrast chapter, this time contrasting Jim’s high-on-the-hog lifestyle with Dagny’s more modest concerns.

Chapter summary: Jim Taggert attends an event with various bigwigs in the steel industry, where they prattle on about Mexico and he complains about his sister. In a bridge scene, he confronts her about the use of substandard equipment on the Mexico line, and she tells him that they have to cut corners and Mexico’s losing money. Then Dagny reflects on her route from the bottom to the top, ending with a discussion with someone who went from the top to the bottom.

I felt this was a very ham-fisted and forced chapter. It starts with a “clever” image that the penthouse bar is made to look like a cellar. By itself, that wouldn’t be too bad, but is made clumsy by Rand’s obvious use of the “top” and the “bottom” throughout this chapter.

Here, too, Rand lays out one of the foundation stones of Objectivism: That everybody has chances, that nobody is the victim of their situation. Her choice for demonstrating this is a very weak one. Dagny Taggert of Taggert Transcontinental seems utterly mystified as to why people would treat her with such deference even in entry level positions. She went straight up the ladder through, in her apparent view, hard work and dedication alone.

Dagny Taggert is too smart, and Ayn Rand is too smart, for us to actually believe that the fact that Dagny was the daughter of the President had anything to do with her growth. Indeed, apparently the only reason why Jim and not Dagny winds up inheriting the family (controlling) stock is that Jim is male. So why does Rand dwell on Dagny’s apparent belief that it was hard work alone that put her in this position?

Perhaps a later chapter will put my mind at ease on this issue, but right now, I’m of a mind that Rand is trying to pull something over on someone, be it the readers, Dagny, or herself.

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